Art as therapy

For most of Peggy Averill’s childhood, she lived on land farmed by her family, raising registered Hereford cattle and grain just west of Penhold, Alberta, Canada. As a young bride, she and her husband bought their own farmland outside Spruce View, Alberta. By 1973 they were raising cattle, eventually shifting to grain production as her parents had. A daughter Tana and son Trent came along and in addition to traditional roles, Peggy helped with annual grain seeding and worked for a local tax accountant. On a dare, she took a class to learn about the craft of taxidermy, beginning a 15-year income-producing occupation she could do from home. Soon the kids were grown and off on their own and in what seemed like no more than a blink, there were five grandchildren.

Cancer plagued her husband two times, then a third diagnosis came in 2003. By then wheels were already in motion for the sale of the farm. The relocation to a more easily managed, less isolated place was practical, but the shift from a farm’s elbowroom to ear-shot-close neighbors on 2.5 acres (1.01 hectares) was a change of life for the couple. “It was an adjustment, for sure,” Peggy said. A bigger adjustment still would come a year later when Ralph Averill passed.

On Peggy’s 50th birthday the farm sale closed. Her sadness for the life behind her would be buoyed some by a Vulcan 800, the V-twin-powered Kawasaki. She considered it a personal challenge to take the rider’s course and begin touring at 50. There were many other interests that Peggy embraced, beginning in 1990 when she took a painting class. Her father had enjoyed painting and she’d painted as a child, but she knew much could be learned from an artist/teacher. A creative person to the core, she set space aside in her home for painting, sculpting, carving pieces from native tree bark, moose antlers and soapstone. A prolific artist, she needed the room to display her work. She furthered her education in photography, earning a digital photography certification. Trips to photograph wildlife have taken her to Alaska, and throughout the Northwest.

Often what is photographed will find its way onto canvas and in all candor, her work is uncommonly good. She said of creativity, “That’s my therapy. I lose myself in my artwork.”

Eleven years after her husband passed Peggy decided it was time to move closer in. A 2002 Heritage had replaced her nimble Vulcan, and a home search would in part be based on close proximity to open-range riding. “I wanted to be able to get out of town easily.” She settled on a beautiful scene, land rimming a small wetland pond in Red Deer, Alberta, where she’s lived for four years. There, wildlife meanders through; an osprey occasionally finds a slippery snack and waterfowl dabble. Though it’s not acreage and plenty of neighbors are near, there’s a peacefulness and privacy restored to her there. Her home has an art studio where she paints and sculpts, a gallery and carving workshop where she can make a mess and sweep up easily. She shares her home with a welcome companion, an unexpected bonus after so many years on her own.

Her Harley Owners Group (H.O.G. Chapter 9035) meets at Gasoline Alley Harley-Davidson and it was there in 2015 she connected with a man who, like Peggy, had lost his spouse to illness sometime before. It was the love of riding that found them taking a few rides together, and through that they discovered a great deal more. Bob Paradis (pronounced parody), a retired chemical engineer, has three sons: Chris, Justin and Ben. Between the three sons, Bob has eight grandchildren. He rides a 2017 Ultra today but cumulatively he’s put on 250,000 miles in 20 years.

It was in Jasper, Alberta, October of 2018, that Peggy and Bob made their bond official; eloping quietly and marrying in that beautiful lakeside setting (pictured). Often having a morning cup at Gasoline Alley Harley-Davidson, Bob was chided recently by a fellow member of the H.O.G. chapter when that rider found out about Bob’s nuptials. Peggy explained the fellow teased Bob because, “I had to find out on Facebook that you two got married.”


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